PASADENA, Calif. — There was no other way one of the most legendary runs in Ohio State history could end.
Urban Meyer checked off a bucket-list item. The Buckeyes coach fired up his team for one last run out of the tunnel and on to one more big-game win. And the parting image of him leaving the Rose Bowl with a final victory to add to his overflowing resumÃ© isn’t likely to be forgotten back in Columbus any time soon.
Meyer can head to retirement with no regrets, other than maybe wondering what might have happened if the No. 6 Buckeyes and record-setting quarterback Dwayne Haskins had been given a shot in the College Football Playoff. The way they battled No. 9 Washington on a glorious Tuesday afternoon with a 28-23 victory at least suggested they would have been a more viable threat to Clemson or Alabama.
But that ship had obviously already sailed. So the focus was just on ending Meyer’s tenure and the decorated careers of Ohio State’s veteran players on the right note.
That mission was accomplished. And as Lettermen Row‘s full postgame coverage begins, let’s kick it all off with Snap Judgments.
Ryan Day can work play-calling magic
While Meyer deserved his day in the spotlight and a proper sendoff, there was always going to be a lot of attention on his replacement since Ryan Day is set to take the reins officially on Wednesday. His last game as the offensive coordinator, though, provided another reminder of just why he was so coveted on the coaching market and why the Buckeyes were intent on locking him up for the future. Washington brought plenty of talented personnel and a decent plan for slowing down Haskins, but it was largely foiled even by halftime thanks to clever route concepts, solid play-action designs and the sharp fundamentals Day has imparted to his game. Meyer was hailed for his ability to evolve Ohio State offensively when he arrived, and Day is only going to continue that trend.
Dwayne Haskins is looking like a No. 1 pick
The statistics are almost hard to comprehend from the redshirt sophomore quarterback at this point. And with one more opportunity to show what he could do against an elite defense, Haskins made it more clear than ever that his stock is too high for him to risk coming back to school. Throughout the month, Haskins has indicated that he hadn’t made a decision and would talk it over after the Rose Bowl. But as the best quarterback in the draft class, there’s a high probability he could become the No. 1 overall pick — and that’s an opportunity too good to pass up for Haskins.
Silver Bullets came to play
For all the hand-wringing about all the explosive plays allowed and the uncertainty swirling around the future of the defensive coaching staff, Ohio State delivered perhaps its finest effort to close the season with a suffocating first half that paved the way for the victory. In something of a callback to last year’s dominant outing by the Silver Bullets against a different Pac-12 champion in the Cotton Bowl against USC, the Buckeyes were fundamentally sound, aggressive in pass coverage and delivered key stops early and held on down the stretch for the victory. Whatever happens from here with the assistants, Ohio State can build on this outing with a bunch of talented young defenders coming back next season.
Playoff committee got it wrong … again
Just like last season, Ohio State was judged by its worst day instead of its ceiling — which seems counterintuitive based on the mission to identify the four best teams in the country. Maybe Alabama and Clemson are so much better than everybody else in the country that it wouldn’t have changed anything. But it seems pretty clear that Dwayne Haskins and this loaded Ohio State roster operating at its peak potential has a chance to beat any opponent, and it once again used a conference champion-versus-champion matchup to flex its muscles. Yes, losing to Purdue was embarrassing. Sure, the final score wound up being closer than it could have been on Tuesday. But winning the Big Ten is challenging, steamrolling Michigan isn’t as easy as the Buckeyes make it look and Washington was forced to pay the price for the selection committee’s flawed logic.